Zooming in educational leadership theories: Instructional leadership & distributed leadership perspectives


Educational leadership theories are broad and universal. Thus, there is a need for a context to scrutinize these theories. Oftentimes misconstrued with management, we have to clearly define leadership as a separate entity in the school context.

Hence, by zooming in educational leadership theories from instructional and distributed perspectives, we can look into the differences between management and leadership.

Management vs Leadership

To distinguish management from leadership, we have to put the latter in a distributed perspective. Whereas management is all about maintenance, leadership is about progress and development. This is one of the key dimensions of distributed leadership.

Generally speaking, leadership from a distributed perspective emphasizes that leadership is not just a function of an individual. It is more of a social interaction.

Distributed leadership perspectives

Two schools of thoughts lead to further elaboration of distributed leadership. First, Spillane (1999) defines distributed leadership as a cognitive activity engaged in by the interaction of leaders, followers, context, and tasks. This deviates from the centralization of power to social and situational distribution of leadership tasks and functions through schemes of interdependency (Spillane, 1999).

On the other hand, Harris (2012) brings the ideas of Spillane forward from a psychological activity to a social reality. The literature simplifies the cognitive concept of distributed leadership as a form of “leadership shared within and between schools.”

This study also notes that this is not a matter of spreading responsibilities or delegating. This needs to be planned purposefully to carry out the following:

  1. sharing of power and decision-making
  2. leadership as interaction
  3. a high degree of trust
  4. blending leadership practices and activities to school development
  5. system transformation

Critical thoughts on distributed leadership

Until now,  the practice of distributed leadership is still in question in school systems.  One contention is that this gets simmered down and confused with ‘delegation’, which is what’s happening in a lot of schools.

Worse, the idea of distribution of leadership seems to be more of distribution of titles/positions to those deemed more collaborative with the principal rather than the merit of ability and competence.

Despite having a lot of ‘leaders’, it might seem that this decentralization is more of assigning roles and responsibilities to fill in the gap. Does the distribution of leadership start from transactional leadership?

If it is, then won’t that be more of delegation of tasks by a transactional leader?

If not from a transactional leader, what if the distribution starts from an instructional-transformational leader?

Would that fit the ideal conception of distributed leadership?

Needless to say, distributed leadership is one of the highly idealized educational leadership theories. If practiced to the core, it could yield amazing results for the stakeholders of the school: teachers and students in particular.

If only all schools could ensure a purposefully and well-planned distribution of leadership, then there would be harmony in school system fostering better learning outcomes.

Instructional leadership perspectives

Other than distributed leadership, another educational leadership theory in practice is instructional leadership. From Hallinger & Murphy’s conception of the theory in the 1980’s, instructional leadership has gone a long way. To be more specific, instructional leadership has links with school improvement in the past decades.

Come to think of it, instructional leadership is a highly transferable idea since teachers are also instructional leaders in their own classrooms.

For an instance, teachers usually start their class by sharing with their students the specific learning goals for the session. To avoid exclusion and to be more flexible, they spend minutes looking into these goals. Also, they emphasize that these goals are not set in stone.  In this way, teachers practice the idea of framing goals.

From a small classroom setting, we can amplify the importance of framing and communicating goals in a larger school setting. A principal should not resort to draconian measures by imposing school goals as this impedes flexibility to change. Instead, the principal should invite stakeholders in formulating school goals based on mission-vision.  In effect, everyone can have a shared accountability for these goals.

Furthermore, the principal may have to set up a committee to look into these goals so that they can assess whether these are CLEAR and SMART goals.

Through this measures, the community could be able to frame a set of SCHOOL’s goals that truly reflect the SCHOOL as a learning community and not just that of the principal. The next step is how we could live up to the standards of these goals.

The next step is how the school could live up to the standards of these goals.

Instructional leadership  and principalship

Is it possible for an ‘outsider’ to be a school principal?

This ‘outsider’ refers to a person who is not from the field of education, and worse, who pretends to be knowledgeable in this field.

This might be highly contentious, but it is a NO.

For schools to be effective, there is a need for a principal who knows the ins-and-outs of the school system (the CONTENT and PROCESSES involved). How can you manage something that you are not even familiar with? Who could be the best candidates for

How can you manage something that you are not even familiar with? Who could be the best candidates for the principalship?

Those who have been in this system–the teachers.

Teachers know the curriculum, the instructional processes, and the students based on the assumption that this is part of their nature.

Hence, in managing the instructional program, the school system needs PRINCIPALS who ‘have been there and done that’ and not just because they are sons or daughters of some rich aristocrat basking in the glory of medieval feudalism.

The instructional leadership challenge

As one of the educational leadership theories, the most challenging dimension of instructional leadership is developing school climate. It involves people to achieve the ends of progress and sustainability.

In a way, this can also be the product of the first two dimensions. As leaders define goals and manage instructional programs, a school climate needs to be in place to support and enact the two dimensions.

For example, even though a school has clear goals and has well-crafted instructional programs, the whole system is still away from perfection. If the school principal tends to overlook instructional time, then a possible meaningful learning opportunity gets lost.

Based on the Pareto effect, it is this 20% (the simple things) that make up the whole. If we strive to clean up and be consistent in acting on these acts to develop a school climate anchored on clear goals, then we could have more progressive and sustainable schools.

Educational leadership theories and improving the system

To prepare for the future of this school system, we just need TWO BITES of REALITY. There is no single recipe in running a perfect school, but there are more than a hundred and one ways by which we can transform schools and sustain this development. This is the first reality we have to embrace.

To aim for perfection is to shoot for the stars. We are not shooting for stars; we are cultivating students. Neither are we propagating educational leadership theories.

The second reality is that school leaders must uphold the processes of TEACHING and LEARNING. The goals, actions, and plans of the leader should all go back to the ideals of teaching and learning.

If it’s not for teaching and learning, forget about it. We may name all the educational leadership theories and models of teaching and learning: distributed, transformational or instructional leadership. However, what matters most is the way leaders conduct themselves as a principal–bringing forth the essence of teaching and learning.

Empower teachers and prioritize students. Be patient for it may take more than 100 days before you get a full hang of it.

At the end of the day, if school leaders know where they and the school are heading to, they will eventually get there.


Hallinger, P. (2009). “Leadership for the 21st century schools: From instructional leadership to leadership for learning.”


Harris, A. (2011). “Distributed leadership: Implications for the role of the principal.” Journal of Management Development 31(1): 7-17.


Spillane, J. P., et al. (1999). Distributed leadership: Toward a theory of school leadership practice, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University Evanston, IL.

Learning community in practice: Building PLCs in schools

Building a learning community is a primal catalyst of change. In the greater schema of interrelatedness, a change in a community creates a ripple effect on a particular system. Subsequently in this cycle, the changes in the system trickle down to the psyche of the individuals.

Hence, by applying these generalizations in the education system, individual learning stems from building a professional learning community (PLC).  This will then branch out to the idea of systems learning.

The question here is: How do we apply these conceptual ideas in the reality of the school system?

building a learning community

 The conception of a professional learning community

Although the concept of PLC’s has been in existence since the 1990’s, the studies of Harris and Jones from 2008-2014 refine the idea of PLCs.  Harris and Jones gave it a clearer and more feasible structure that any school could adapt as a groundwork for individual and systems learning.

A professional learning community may refer to a group of connected and engaged professionals.  These people are responsible for driving change and improvement within, between and across schools that will directly benefit learners’ (Harris and Jones, 2010).

In designing a PLC in school, Harris and Jones (2008) advise that the change agents should bear in mind that the main goal of staff learning is to support students’ learning through a ‘Disciplined Collaborative Inquiry’.

This collaborative inquiry requires a system that is inclusive in nature according to the goals set.

As a disciplined collaboration, teachers need to work together rigorously. In addition, they should focus on the aims of improving each other’s practices (Harris and Jones, 2012; Jones, 2013).

To be more specific in defining the structure of a PLC, Harris and Jones (2009) outline the seven phases of a PLC.  This starts with establishing one and ends with the sharing of outcomes, which could lead to another cycle of a PLC.

Thus, a disciplined professional collaboration stems out from a systematic analysis of data for evaluating and planning to increase staff’s capabilities to support students’ learning (Harris and Jones, 2009).

A PLC case study

In evaluating the PLC programs in place in a school, we need to identify certain practices like this case study from one IB school:

  1. The teaching staff is clustered according to three levels: PYP (Primary), MYP (Middle) and DP (Diploma).  Each level has subject groups/departments that are overlapping especially in the Languages, PE, Arts, and Humanities departments.   PLCs come in the form of grade levels and by subject groups.
  2. At the end of each grading period, teachers scrutinize their data and define learning issues. Then , they set target for the next quarter. They call this their ‘Action Plan’ that they work on collaboratively on Google Sheets.
  3. In their subject groups, they have video conferences with other campuses that are usually focused on housekeeping matters. They spend three meetings listening to talks by our colleagues on literary analysis and concept-based teaching-learning.
  4. On Wednesday afternoons, they have a level meeting (MYP).  In the past three weeks they are doing an experimental “PLC” of their principal. In this PLC, they sit in a group of five and collaboratively work on the structured online modules designed by their school’s leadership team.

 Evaluating a professional learning community

Based on the professional learning community overview suggested by Jones (2016), the PLC program and practices in this case study school is ripe in its implementation stage. However, it is totally lacking in the stages of innovation and impact.

To address the limitations of this PLC, we may consider the following action steps into practice:

1. Establishing PLC groups should be natural and purposeful.

The concept should be clearly introduced to the entire school community.  In addition,  the school needs to embrace the culture of professional collaboration as communicated by the school’s change agent/s.

In effect, this will address the learning of the teachers and the students. The school might want to have a PLC coordinator to serve as a facilitator or ‘traffic manager’ of discussions and collaboration.

Teacher’s timetable should have an allocation for PLC sessions happening simultaneously across all departments.

2. PLCs formed should have a clear focus based on issues from students’ data.  

This should go beyond quantitative data on Google Sheets. PLCs should be sharing qualitative information on the issues based on their experiences.

Since the PLC in the case school lacks innovation, the groups should have ample time during the allocated session to look for new, appropriate strategies from various sources.  Then, they may share these strategies among themselves instead of just referring to structured modules online.

3. From the sharing of strategies, the group should consensually adopt at least one strategy to address the desired learning outcomes.

The group must agree upon a timeframe. During the particular period, assessments for learning (formative assessments) should take place for immediate feedback on the strategies.

At the end of the grading period or the timeframe, the PLC group should look into an assessment of learning (summative assessment). This could give data on the learning issue in focus. From here, the community may adopt an evaluation of the strategies.  If a particular strategy works well, a member of the group can share this to the school community.  Later on, the leadership team may draft policies or practice guides on this.

As an IB school, this case school is expected to network with other IB schools in the region. They may plan a regular summit so that they may share the best practices on a larger scale.

 PLC and learning needs

Although Fullan (2007) believes that PLCs are not really bad to do, he expresses his doubts on the theory in use.  This is due to its premise of being superficial and school-centric.

In ironing out these doubts, PLCs should have a meaningful and specific design. In addition, it should give opportunities for the school to engage in a larger scale of collaboration through networking (Fullan, 2007, p. 6).

Thus, school leaders need to make PLCs more meaningful and authentic. They have to take the necessary actions to further its PLC program.  PLCs should continually support not just the teacher’s learning, but more importantly the students’ learning needs.


Fullan, M. (2007). Change theory as a force for school improvement (pp. 3-13). Springer Netherlands.

Harris, A., & Jones, M. (2010). Professional learning communities and system improvement. Improving schools, 13(2), 172-181.

Embracing and evaluating professional learning community in schools

Being a teacher does not exempt one from the learning process. Following an obvious dichotomous logic, teaching will not take place if there is no learning involved. Instead, this could be achieved through a professional learning community.

As educators, we tend to forget the essence of our own learning. Usually, our personal and professional baggage bog us down.

In fact, social change will not take place if we become so content. Sticking to status quo of acquiring knowledge and skills won’t  help either.

In this journey of meaningful change in the education system, we need to reflect on the value and pitfalls of professional learning communities (PLC).

Working on a Professional Learning Community (PLC)

Professional Learning Community (PLC) offers promising ideals of change in the education system. In line with Tri-level reform and the idea of systems learning for educational change, PLCs strive to achieve an environment of collaboration.

It goes by the purpose of having various carefully planned strategies.  In any case, this leads to staff development and system improvement (Fullan, 1997; Harris and Jones, 2010).

Although open for scrutiny, properly implemented PLCs lead to more motivated teachers who perform effectively in and out of the classroom (Huffman and Jacobson, 2003 in Harris and Jones, 2010).

On the other hand, Fullan (2007) looks at PLCs as a “flawed change theory”.  Despite being a promising espoused theory of action, the theory in use ends up being superficial, individualistic and school-centric.

Similar to any proposition for change, if PLCs are properly implemented and sincerely adhered to, then this would yield meaningful and long-term changes not just in the schools but in the system.

 PLC’s in schools

Dr. Jose Manuel Villarreal, who was then Senior Director of San Diego County Office of Education, had a talk on Building Professional Learning Communities. His idea of PLCs centered on ideas of reflective organization, self-talk or professional language, a culture of collaboration and teacher leadership.

Learning walks as a PLC opportunity

The ‘learning walks’ system is one of the many ways to improve visibility and guidance for all teachers.   Learning walks is a classroom observation strategy in which school leaders or principals literally walk around the school and observe teaching practices as they happen spontaneously (Finch, 2010).

Superficially, this strategy may seem as a euphemism for monitoring teacher’s activities and ensuring security protocols. Worse, others may deem this as an invasion of teachers’ and students’ space.

However, if the school leaders enlighten the  receivers of ‘learning walks’ of the value and sincerity of this strategy, then change in perception may lead to positive impact.

With this, is there a prescribed timeframe to evaluate the impact of a program in an educational system?

Evaluating PLCs

Taking into account these two contexts, PLCs could provide a good foundation for school reforms if strategically implemented and collaboratively accepted.

Needless to say, the initiative for genuine PLC must come from a charismatic, visionary, sincere, and capable leader.  In effect, this leader could build the grounds for this change by making the teachers understand the need for such actions and by directing the flow of this “double-loop learning” process. Perhaps, to sustain the momentum and promises of progressive change by PLCs, school

Perhaps, school leaders and teachers must dig deep into the core of PLCs.  This helps sustain the momentum and promises of progressive change by PLCs.  The school must look at this as a way to transform the culture of the community through motivation, contextualisation, evaluation, and system engagement (Fullan, 2007, p. 8).

The future of professional learning community

In the same way that schools in Wales operated its PLCs well (Harris and Jones, 2010), it could be an alternative that other schools could replicate this success.  Schools could considered and later on evaluate the following steps in adopting PLCs in this particular school setting:

  1. Schools should institutionalize PLCs and not just concentrate on one department. Departments should also learn from each other.
  2. There must be a clear policy framework  in place with a pilot PLC program covering achievable agreed goals, and grounds.
  3. Evaluation should include a regular collection of evidence from the piloting of the PLC programs. For example, learning walks, collaborative learning, learner engagement could serve as factors. The community should regularly address commendable outcomes.
  4. Establish networks with other international schools within the district or region.
  5. Engage in global learning by having online links with international schools in other countries.

PLC offers idealistic conditions for educational change, which some might misconstrue as messianic especially those clamouring for true, long-term reforms.

Schools can put to test the feasibility of these PLC programmes when implemented and evaluated consistently.

Systems should always be open to learning. Thus,  PLCs must usher in long-term reforms.  Through collaborative, interconnected, and transformative learning among teachers, administrators and the system itself could lead to better learning.

Transformational leadership effects on schools: A myth or reality?

Transformational leadership is a productive approach in leading organizations. Generally, schools that had undergone remodeling used such an approach under certain conditions.

However, transformational leadership has turned into a hot topic to be investigated systematically in school contexts. As mentioned, this model to leadership basically targets to engage capability development and improved levels of personal commitment to an organization’s goals on the part of the leaders’ colleagues.

This article will be looking into the findings of Leithwood & Jantzi in their article, Transformational School Leadership Effects: A Replication.

Transformational leadership group dynamics

What are the conditions faced in the context of transformational leadership?

These “conditions” consist of decisions and actions taken outside the classroom but within the school. This aims to enhance the “teaching and learning” environment in the classroom.

However, in spite of Hallinger and Heck’s (1998) purposes and goals of instructional leadership, we had perceived “school planning” as a separate entity as in school condition.

In effect, this does not exclude the approaches used for decisions on mission and objectives, and on the action plans executed for their own success. Besides that, “organizational culture” also plays a role in school-level mediating variable.

For classroom conditions, these refer to the decisions and actions directly linked to the “teaching and learning” environment in the classroom.

This closely resembles Scheerens’ (1997) conception of classroom-level variables. In lieu to that, student participation in schools has both behavioral and affective elements.

The research approach

In this study,  Leithwood & Jantzi obtained the data about all variables aforementioned in the framework through two distinctive surveys in one large school district in central Canada. The district with a population of around 400,000 served elementary and secondary students. Likewise, this ranged from not only urban, but to rural area, made up of approximately 57,000 students in total.

There were two survey instruments used for data collection. One survey gathered data from teachers on school and classroom conditions, and on the practices and integration of transformational leadership.

The second survey collected substantial evidence from students on their engagement with school and their family’s educational cultures.

All teachers in the district took part in the “Organizational Conditions and School Leadership Survey”. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of transformational leadership practices on school organizational conditions and student engagement with school.

In addition, this took into account the potentially large, moderating effects of family educational culture.

The results: A myth from reality

As a result, transformational leadership approaches have a mediocre but statistically significant effect on the psychological dimension of student engagement.

The size of these effects is approximately the same as those found for the effects of leadership provided specifically by principals in two of the other studies by Leithwood and Jantzi, which also used student engagement as an important factor.

Nevertheless, the best explanation is that principals and transformational leadership practices make a disappointing contribution to student engagement.

In fact, student engagement is a product linked directly to teachers’ classroom practices and not the leadership. Accordingly, this notion of leadership goes back to the term, “romance of leadership” (Meindl, 1995). This argument puts leadership as a convenient, phenomenologically legitimate, social construction. Hence, this disguises a multitude of influences on organizational outcomes including teachers’ practices.

Consequently, people stick to the idea of leadership in part because it provides a simple explanation for organizational effects that otherwise would defy their understanding.

Apart from that, leadership has very small effect on student engagement. Transformational school leadership practices do explain a large proportion of the value-sided variation in school rather than classroom climates. Furthermore,

Furthermore, large proportion of variation in student engagement explained by family educational culture raises the possibility that different student outcomes may range considerably in their sensitivity to family, as compared with school, variables.

Limitation and reflection

For the limitation of the study, further research needs to include a wider set of student outcome variables. These may resemble the general set of academic, social, and psychological outcomes included in the curricula of most schools.

Second, such research would step up its conception and parameters of “student background” variables, focusing on a quite specific sub-set of variables.  These may likely justify other factors influencing students’ accomplishment credited to background variables.

Finally, the premise of this study tries to debunk the myth of a transformational leader that Leithwood himself worked on for years.    This humbling gesture from an established researcher reveals the nature of educational research as a dynamic field.  Although leadership plays only second to teaching, still it is a key factor in any organization.

Leaders must always aspire to be transformational leaders that promote better teaching practices and learning strategies.

Working on educational change through leadership (repost)

Evolution of schools is a process driven by educational change. The state we are in will never be a reality without the prior changes throughout the course of history affecting our individuality.

This is just one of the countless ways to define the abstraction of change.  After all, to say that ‘change’ has a definitive definition undermines the existence of this notion.

Hence, enacting change is such a powerful driving force. Everything in this realm operates under it.

educational change like an orchestra

The concept of change

A general understanding of the notion of change needs to be in place. Before probing deeper, there must be a more contextual appreciation of this concept.

Although the definition of change comes in more than a million ways,  change is an “emotional process” that is transformational and dynamic. Accordingly, there is no improvement without change. Therefore, one should not misconstrue that all changes lead to improvement.

Being a process, change takes time and needs time. Certainly, it is a journey that best explored alongside the varying responses and effects that come with it.

To better understand this idea, Kritsonis (2005) compared five theories of change in claiming that “change is a real phenomenon.”  Clearly then, all theories generally revolve around factors leading to outcomes in explaining the phenomenon of change.

For an instance, it is Lewin’s three-step change theory that captures the core of change.  Lewin defines change as a rational process breaking the status-quo, allowing further development, and managing sustainability (Lewin, 1951 in Kritsonis, 2005).

Whether one sees it from a rational or emotional perspective, change comes in different forms shaped by time and the drive to go beyond the norms.

Educational change and transforming societies


Considering that change covers a broad spectrum, it is imperative to narrow it down in the context of education.

From a sociological point of view, education can be seen as a primary institution in the formation of societies. Social theorist Karl Marx believes that education [and propaganda] should be established first to provide guidance and improve the lives of the people (Kellner, 2006).

In effect, the focus of this educational change leads to the educators who will always be the people behind this institution of change.

Due to obvious reasons, they share baseline perspectives that initially spark ideas, passion, and the need for changes whether it is a small scale or a bigger scale (Keane, 2015).

Henceforth, further research needs to focus on developing and harnessing the potential of educators to be catalysts of change.  Even though this is an obvious matter in some societies, it is still highly debatable that most countries throughout the world have low regards of the power that educators could bring forth in social development.

Despite the social changes and promising development it could bring, it is disheartening that education seems to be the lowest priorities in less economically developed countries (LEDC’s) and the bottom range of more economically developed countries (MEDC) like my home country.

Perhaps, the quality and quantity of change lead to a deficiency of initiative in educational change in LEDC’s and some MEDC’s.

Here comes the idea of having a strong LEADER, which is not just a mere manager or an administrator.

educational change leadership challenge

Educational change and leadership

The emerging theoretical framework governs different notions and styles of leaderships.  One has to wonder whether LEDC’s propagate, address, and evaluate these modern and continuously developed styles of leadership.

It is easy to define an ideal form of leadership or to list 20 or so ways of effective leadership, but to put theory into practice is another part of the discussion.

Having all these leadership dogmas in place, why is it difficult to replicate the success of educational change and leadership? Although it sounds so good to be true, why can’t these governing bodies translate these ideal perspectives into reality?

One might be asking for heavens to materialize on earth.  However, if instructional leadership turn into reality, then we all would be enjoying the euphoria of utopia.

Alma Harris, a celebrated guru in educational leadership, noted, “Every person [in this room] has influence more than formal leaders.”

Titles do not equate to leadership. Titles without vision or action are meaningless in the field of education where genuine reforms are in need.

The problem with leaders these days is that they end up so engulfed by their ego.  Eventually, they forget the basics of humanity: compassion.

Numerous key performance indices drive educational leaders that they fail to make people or even themselves understand change.

We are missing the point when we rationalize change with numbers and letters.  In reality, social change is an “emotional process” dealing with human actions and attitudes.

Final thoughts

Beyond the call of positions or titles, a clear vision could help shape the future of our students.  This could then lead to the transformation of the school system. With a strong desire to inspire students to be the best they could be, every educator could transform this system.  Needless to say, a bureaucrat who clings on to his or her title only do so little.

We have to fully grasp the idea of educational change as a process. One needs an intense immersion in reality to scrutinize the ideal prospects for change and leadership.

The education system is continuously evolving dating back even before the conception of history. It is a journey of learning to look back at the changes in the past.  From here, we could see how we could modify the future of education through sound leadership.


Keane, Lorna. (2015, April 20). Why Educators are the Driving Force of Change in Education. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-educators-driving-force-change-education-lorna-keane


Kellner, D. (2006). Marxian Perspectives on Educational Philosophy: From Classical Marxism to Critical Pedagogy.


Kritsonis, A. (2005). Comparison of change theories. International journal of scholarly academic intellectual diversity, 8(1), 1-7.

Turning the tales of turnaround schools to reality

The case of turnaround schools is like a fairy tale of schools.  However, in this Cinderella story, the miracle happens in the reality of schools all over the world.

Transforming a school from low to high performing is not an impossible feat. It is an undertaking of sheer will power and impressive organizational skills.

the case of turnaround schools

The case of low-performing schools

Describing the performance of a school requires certain standards. Obviously, these standards are set by certain boards.  On the other hand, these could be as simple as logical discretion.

To be more objective, student achievement usually quantifies a school’s performance.  Based on grades attained by students, these could be from internal or external examination.  Any school can simply claim high performance according to internally assessed work.  However, through standardized exams, schools get to establish themselves as high-performing schools due to impressive results.

For example, schools from Shanghai and Singapore have established themselves as top schools based on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results in reading, maths, and science.

In the United States, proficiency tests enable assessors to determine the performance of a school and even a district.

Aside from grades, school performance based on student achievement also includes graduation rates and the ability of the students to go to colleges or universities.

On top of these quantitative factors, the quality of infrastructure and instructional practices come into play.

Logically, low performing schools usually score below the acceptable standards in all or most of these factors.

The case of turnaround schools

The study of Klugman et al. (2015) on turnaround schools in Illinois brings this ugly duckling tale into reality.  In 2013, the University of Chicago conducted a statewide survey involving school stakeholders.  The data from this research lead to findings on turning low to high performing schools.

learning in turnaround schools

Firstly, socio-economically disadvantaged communities and rural schools lack the support system they need.  In effect, these schools are at risk of lower student outcomes.

Now, what should be done to these schools?

Due to this inadequacy, providing the essential support system could provide a chance for these schools to transform.  More importantly, the following essential support factors should be considered:

  1. Effective leadership
  2. Collaborative teachers
  3. Involved families
  4. Supportive environment
  5. Ambitious instruction

If schools could look into these factors, then change may take place.  Perhaps, a strong support system could lead to better student outcomes.  Therefore, school leaders and district supervisors must meet these essential supports to improve the system.

Finally, current studies on school improvement and leadership establish the correlation between the two.  Hence, school transformation would require supportive leadership that fosters strong, effective instructional principles and practices.


Klugman, J., Gordon, M. F., Sebring, P. B., & Sporte, S. E. (2015). A first look at the 5Essentials in Illinois schools. RESEARCH SUMMARY.

Trump’s Twitter Leadership versus the Leaders’ Rulebooks

In just two weeks into his presidency, Trump has started to rewrite the rulebooks of leadership. Well, this new paradigm revolves around this new concept of Twitter Leadership with Trump at its helm.

Pundits and commoners have been very vocal about Trump’s leadership style. Obviously, there are always two sides to a coin.

Evaluating Trump’s leadership as the 45th US president needs a non-political context.

Feasibly, this might sound absurd. But, as Trump’s words and actions have been highly political in nature, we can’t be too redundant in our analysis.

Twitter Leadership in action

 Trump’s ‘Twitter Leadership’

First, we need to define what this ‘Twitter Leadership’ is. No rulebook on leadership has ever coined this term, so let REEDEL be the first. There is no need to complicate the obvious. Through Twitter, Trump built the momentum of his campaign. Eventually, through Twitter, Trump has stamped his mark as the US president in the past two weeks.

Definitely, @realDonaldTrump has made waves not just in the US but also as far as Twitter’s reach. From his Great Wall and Muslim Ban tweets, Trump has moved the political arena from the Lincoln Memorial to the Twitter-sphere.

Pun aside; he’s got 23.8M followers. That’s more than enough to define a ‘leader’.

On a more serious note, is that enough to define him as a ‘real leader’ according to the rulebooks of leadership?

Trait Leadership and Trump

Proponents of trait leadership believe that a leader is born not made. One of them is Stephen Zaccaro (2007), who believes in leadership skills as inherent attitudes and behaviors.

Zaccaro’s model includes the following attributes:

  1. Personality
  2. Cognitive Abilities
  3. Motives and Values
  4. Social Appraisal Skills
  5. Problem Solving Skills
  6. Expertise/Tacit Knowledge

More importantly, Zaccaro (2007) noted that leadership effectiveness comes from the combination of these traits rather than ‘independent contribution of multiple traits.’

Now, if we are to juxtapose these with Trump, we can say that he has all these, but the quality remains to be in question.

Let’s just take three of the six attributes by asking these questions:

  1. If he has a ‘good personality’, would he openly use crude expressions?
  2. Well, if he has high cognitive abilities, would he refuse to accept the facts especially the numbers during his inauguration?
  3. If he has such ‘values’, could he think of other policies aside from banning Muslims?

Henceforth, this closes Trump’s chances of falling under a ‘Trait Leader’.

Transactional Leadership and Trump

Perhaps, Trump has high chances of falling under this category. Besides, transactional leadership is the closely relevant to management—a top-down approach for easy maintenance.

For this reason, basic assumption dictates how Trump fits in this category as a business mogul.

However, let’s take a closer look at one of the models as proposed by Bernard Bass (1981), which can be summarized in three points:

  1. Laissez-faire: abdicates responsibilities/delegates/assigns
  2. Management by exception: corrections and punishment
  3. Contingent reward: promises rewards for good performance

Again, it’s the combination of these three that makes a good transactional leader, which brings positive impact to an organization. Does Trump make the cut?

Well, he has abdicated responsibilities to his family, son-in-law, and even Steve Bannon.

In addition, he has fired Sally Yate, the acting attorney general, for “refusing to enforce a legal order”.

Unfortunately, Trump has not promised any rewards yet—just walls and bans.

The buck stops there for Trump and Transactional Leadership.

Transformational Leadership and Trump

A transformational leader is usually associated with the word ‘charisma’. Once again, people can safely assume that by being a formal reality show host, Trump could be a transformational leader.

Nevertheless, let’s benchmark Trump against Bass’ model of transformational leadership. Bass (1990) does not box a transformational leader in a charismatic brand.

Consequently, for him, superior leader performance comes when a leader creates awareness of the mission and allows their follower to go beyond.

Likewise, Bass’ Transformational Leader goes by these traits:

  1. Charisma: Provides vision and sense of mission
  2. Inspiration: Communicates high expectations
  3. Intellectual Stimulation: Promotes intelligence
  4. Individualized Consideration: Treats every person respectfully

Given the abovementioned traits, it’s definitely a NO for all for Mr. President.

Twitter Leadership in full swing!

Twitter Leadership and Trump

With all three major leadership theories squeezed out, what’s left for Mr. Donald J. Trump?

Definitely, he does not fit in any of the three mainstream leadership ideals because he is Trump. He does not follow the Bible because he creates his own canon of alternative facts.

Hence, we propose a theory: the Twitter Leadership. It does not fall in any of the three leadership models, although it has some traces of transactional leadership.

In addition to the earlier definition of Twitter Leadership, this theory can be simply explained by the following:

  1. Simplistic: Vision and policies must fit in 140 characters.
  2. Social Media Driven: The official medium of communication and source of information devoid of fake news
  3. Self-promoting: The leader should be at the center of everything.

Arguments aside, @realDonaldTrump fits this model perfectly.

As a challenge to future researchers in this colorful field of leadership, Trump is the perfect guinea pig for this paradigm shift.

How effective is Twitter Leadership? We will find out in the next four years.

Top 5 reasons why teachers quit international schools and how to deal with it

In this fast paced world, teachers quit international schools for a hundred and one reasons. The departure of a teacher from a school is part of how human resource in an organization function. Indeed, it is a very personal decision too.

People come; people go. However, if there is a significant number of teachers leaving a school, the resultant impact is potentially destructive.

A study by Glenn Odland and Mary Ruzicka (2009) has deemed that a moderate turnover in a school is healthy. But, the recent statistics shows that teacher turnover percentages are in a pessimistic range. A high turnover of school teachers is not what we are after for. What are the reasons for this trend?

funny look at why teachers quit international schools

Reason 1: Causal factors related to administrative leadership and why teachers quit international schools

The central ideas of statement categorized to administrative leadership are:

  • Communication between senior management and faculty
  • Support from principal and senior management
  • Teacher involvement in decision-making

Support from the administrative level of the school and the involvement of the teachers in decision-making greatly affect the turnover of teachers.

With an autocratic system being practiced in the school, together with the culture which lacks appreciation, administrative leadership is a clear indicator why teachers quit their job.

Reason 2: Compensation package

The compensation package differs from one school to another. In effect, the school which provides a low compensation package to the teachers induces a large turnover of teachers.

Some teachers complain that the salary scheme they were on was insufficient for them to cover the living cost.

Reason 3: Personal circumstances why teachers quit international schools

Personal circumstances and teacher mobility are often correlated factors when teachers quit international schools. Similarly, personal factors are influential enough to contribute to why teachers quit international schools.

These factors are from individual preferences, but the most common ones include the following: the desire to explore new cultures and countries; boredom and exhaustion; and, family matters.

Reason 4: Issues stemming from private ownership

International schools are often highly-independent profit-based organizations. Some studies suggested that the leading cause of teacher turnover in international schools is governance issue in the school.

The dictatorial policies by the owner of the school, like micro-managing the school with poor resources and humongous profit, have caused great dissatisfaction among teachers. Hence, this has become the reason of departure of the teachers.

Reason 5: Misrepresentation during recruitment

This factor involves the perceptions of teachers on how the management treated them during the recruitment phase.  For example, teachers revealed discrepancies between “what they were told in interview” and “the real-life situation”.

In addition, the school did not fulfill the promises and the offerings written in the contracts. Therefore, teachers feel a huge deal of misrepresentation in the school’s situation, and this has caused them to leave.

What should international schools do?

Despite the factor of personal circumstances, the administrative level personnel is the one who bears the most crucial role in combating the issue.

They should provide necessary support to teachers. Other than that, they should also build more bridges and destroy walls between the administrative level and the teachers.

By doing so, opportunities involving decision-making should come with adequate and effective communication.

Furthermore, the school must give an accurate representation of EVERYTHING in the process of recruiting teachers.  This is to minimize conflict and misunderstanding between the school and the newly-recruited teachers.

Moreover, the study by Odland and Ruzicka (2009) has also suggested that the school can carry out interviews with all teachers who are resigning. Such information and data from these teachers are valuable to address the serious problem of why teachers quit school.

With respect to the salary, compensation must be reasonable in accordance with a teacher’s home country and the living cost in the host country.

The financial statements and budgetary decision-making procedures of a school should be transparent and accountable to build the trust and confidence among teachers.

In effect, teachers who have clear comprehension on important school matters will have less doubt and more trust to the school.

Perhaps, a supportive, democratic, trustworthy and transparent school administrative leader will greatly help in reducing teacher turnover rate.  They must share responsibilities and encourage involvement in decision-making, without neglecting the provision of reasonable compensation to the teachers.



Odland, G., & Ruzicka, M. (2009). An investigation into teacher turnover in international schools. Journal of Research in International Education, 8(1), 5-29.

School’s morale and the shift to caring leadership

The challenge of cultivating caring leadership is demanding.  Since caring leadership requires more than managing communities of teaching and learning, it embodies a balance of academic press and support.

Enhancing strong academic press and social support will benefit the students in their engagement to be academically and socially success. Thus, there is a quintessential central quality of academic and social support which is crucial – caring.

What is caring leadership about?

The definition of caring is vast.  It varies according to different context and perception.

Specifically, caring can be defined as a process of facilitating growth in his or her “own right”.   As such, it is something intended and expressed, perceived and receive by the cared for. So, why should one care?

Caring serves a wide spectrum of purposes.  For example, one of them is to promote the general development, welfare, and well-being of others.

In a way, showing compassion addresses the immediate needs of others.  However,  what makes it greater is the capacity to care through the experience of caring and being cared for. Moreover, a little act of kindness creates an endless ripple.

Caring should be expressed on multiple levels in a school.  In effect, it all starts from the principal, the level of teachers as they work collaboratively, and the level students as they work with peers.

How can school leaders be caring?

To be a caring leader, one must understand the five core elements revolving around caring relationships. These five elements are:

  1. Attentiveness
  2. Motivational displacement
  3. Situational
  4. Mutuality
  5. Authenticity

To express care to others, leaders must engage deeper and longer relationships, which involve the core element–attentiveness.

Perhaps, students in a school are in the zone of proximal emotional development. With this, they perceive the interactions from a supportive adult as a manifestation of compassion. In this case, it is the principal, teachers, or other school leaders.

Other than that, one condition to express care is trust. Trust is an expectation that others will be honest, and exert effort in good faith effort.

By creating a base of mutual support, it is a basic regard for the dignity of others!

In addition, caring leaders should also understand that continuity is also a vital enabling condition.  This can be enhanced when there is a connection between the past, present, and future because it creates a context for the relationship.

Furthermore, a caring leadership provides a safe, secure and conducive learning environment for the students.  This should be of utmost priority for a caring leader.

Next, caring leaders should inculcate the sense of ownership, share responsibility, and acknowledge accountability to motivate others to succeed. This will yield mutuality in the school environment.

How can this be practiced in schools?

As one cliché goes, “sharing is caring.”

Technically, low mobility or turnover among the teachers and students can engage a more stable, trustworthy, deeper and longer relationship. As a result, this creates the enabling condition for caring.

For the principal, he or she should never neglect teachers’ socio-emotional health. Teachers, who are cared for and supported, may provide classroom environments. As a result, this will contribute to broader goals of youth development.

When principals express care about teachers’ well-being, students are more likely to excel.

Moreover, school leaders should restructure schooling as caring communities. Actions that could be done include:

  1. engaging the school community in a shared vision
  2. introducing self-assessments related to caring among school members
  3. shaping school organizational culture through supportive structures
  4. nurture caring relationships in the school community.

How could this affect the school?

The school in which the leaders express care for, the students become more engaged as they have the sense of belonging to the school.

Students in the school ends up motivated and productive. In lieu to this, being caring can contribute to students’ academic achievement too.

Essentially, social and emotional learning (SEL) has a direct impact on one’s ability to show compassion. When people such as the students are responsible and if they have the sense of being a part of the community, this will develop a healthier mindset in children, eventually causing them to thrive.

Apart from that, a caring community will make people feel respected as they treat each other with dignity. Despite his or her position or niche in that school, equal opportunities lead to personal growth or professional development.

Therefore, a caring school leader will enable teachers to engage more interactively with the students, with more interesting and creative materials, and break the rigid boundary between adults and students.

At the end of the story, caring leadership can build a positive learning community in which every member cares and everyone can flourish.


Louis, K. S., Murphy, J., & Smylie, M. (2016). Caring Leadership in Schools Findings From Exploratory Analyses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 0013161X15627678.

21st century teachers and students: The challenge of taking on the role as evaluators

Working in a school maximizes the learning curve of a teacher who also takes on roles as evaluators.  Being a teacher does not just limit one to teach in the classroom but also to learn from this environment.

As such, how can exposure to such ensure teaching and learning could improve in the process?

Students beyond students and as evaluators

Acquiring feedback on practices

Teaching is a never-ending process of learning. For a teacher to continue to improve his/her craft and avoid stagnation, it is a must to be involved in socialized practices.

In effect, these include collaborative means of acquiring feedback.  Likewise, this is something that any teacher won’t be able to learn from a teaching school.

Effective teachers learn best from practice.  In relation to this, teachers develop through time.  Perhaps, this is through a valuable acquisition of feedback from their peers and most especially the learners.

As teachers, we only get to realize the value of our program once we put them into practice. Whatever is written on paper will not reach its purpose until it has been tested in the four corners of the classroom.

Moreover, the best way to gauge the effectiveness of such plans is through consistent and coherent practice.

Henceforth, this can be evaluated by the use of feedback from our peers and from the learners.

Inviting peers as evaluators

Our fellow teachers have a major role in evaluating what we’re doing in the classroom. In fact, we have shared relevant experiences that no other supervisor, principal or superintendent could match.

Regardless of which subject area or level they teach, our peers share the same principles, methodologies, and practices that we do in our class. Though teaching from a different background, teachers can look at the universality of the topics.  In spite of differences in background, it is the practice that matters.

Being in the same department doesn’t really play a crucial impact at all.  More importantly, it is the feedback from an ‘outsider’ who is open-minded and critical that matters.

Students as evaluators

In a way, students, as the school’s primary stakeholder, have the full authority to evaluate teaching and activities.

This is due to the fact that they are the ones at the receiving end of the learner objectives. If they weren’t able to achieve these objectives through various means then teachers failed in transcending these goals to them.

Conservative teachers might think that these students, as young individuals, don’t have the capacity and responsibility to give a constructive feedback. For some,  adults should not take the children’s words seriously.

Perhaps, this is one of the best things we could impart to our students—how they could be effective evaluators.

If students could give such feedback, through guided reflection and other feedback gathering tools, then it’s a manifestation that they were able to express their learning.

Through reflections, students do not only think about what they have learned. As a matter of fact,  they also examine what happened around them including how the teacher has helped or could help them in the long run (Marzano and Brown, 78).

Such accounts could tell instantly say whether teachers do their part.  These are also indicators whether teachers meet the set objectives through the various teaching strategies.

In reality, effective practices involve the school community. As teachers, we should always look for constructive feedback from our peers and from our students.


Marzano, Robert and Brown, John. A Handbook for the Art and Science of Teaching. US: ASCD, 2009. Print.